Terracotta krater

Attributed to the Hirschfeld Workshop

Period: Geometric

Date: ca. 750–735 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: H. 42 5/8 in. (108.3 cm)
diameter 28 1/2 in. (72.4 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1914

Accession Number: 14.130.14


During the Geometric period, monumental grave markers were introduced in the form of large vases, often decorated with funerary representations. On this magnificent krater, the main scene, which occupies the widest portion of the vase, shows the prothesis, a ritual in ancient Greek funerary practice in which the deceased is laid out on a high bed (bier), usually within the house. During the prothesis, relatives and friends may come to mourn and pay their respects to the deceased. Here, the figure seated at the foot of the bier may be the dead man's wife, and the smaller figure on her lap their child.
For optimal clarity, the deceased is shown on his side and the checkered shroud that would normally cover the body has been raised and regularized into a long rectangle. The figures on either side of the bier are depicted with the triangular chests shown frontally and breasts in profile. The figures' legs and circular heads are also rendered in profile. A meander pattern delineates the neck from the body of the vessel. This vase represents the Geometric style, which takes its name from the geometric shapes that constitute its artistic language.
In a band below the funeral scene, chariots stand hitched to teams of horses and warriors carry spears and large shields. The figures may refer to the military exploits of the deceased; however, as hourglass shields and chariots played a more limited role at this time than in the earlier Bronze Age, the scene more likely evokes the glorious ancestry and traditions to which the dead man belonged.